Celebrating Black History Month

American historian and educator Carter Godwin Woodson set the foundation for what is known today as National Black History Month. It is celebrated in February because that is when, in 1926, Woodson and the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) decided to launch a ’Negro History Week,’ the precursor to Black History Month.

The week was originally set to coincide with the birthdays of Frederick Douglas, famed orator and abolitionist and former US Minister Resident to Haiti, and Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States. Both Douglas and Lincoln were instrumental figures in granting liberty and freedom to all Americans, regardless of race, and put into motion the end of the practice of slavery in the United States. The combined momentum of the birthdays of these historical figures helped to create a significant and impactful week, one which eventually led to an entire month of recognition.

Celebrations in Canada began shortly after the week was first established in the US in 1926 and expanded to Black History Month across both Canada and the United States in 1976. Black History Month was officially recognized by the Government of Canada in 1995.

Black History within Chiropractic Practice

Did you know that Harvey Lillard, the first ever chiropractic patient, was of African-American descent?

Lillard (pictured above) was the owner of a janitorial service in the building where DD Palmer, the founder of chiropractic, worked, and he became Palmer’s first patient in 1895. Inspired by his success with Lillard, Palmer built upon his techniques and chiropractic was born. The rest is history.

Health care history is filled with examples of the contributions made by black North Americans.

February is also Heart Health Month. Did you know that the first doctor to perform a successful open heart surgery was African American?

Dr. Daniel Hale Williams performed the first successful open heart surgery in 1893. Williams went on to found Provident Hospital and Training School for Nurses, the first black-owned hospital in the US, in 1891, and later founded the National Medical Association in 1895.

Learn more about black contributions to health care

Find Black History Month events taking place in the city of Toronto